Lewis County’s Joint Narcotics Enforcement Team announced this week that an investigation starting with reports of marijuana-growing products being dumped at the Centralia garbage transfer station last year has resulted in the seizure of illegally-grown product valued on the Washington black market at $11 million dollars.
However, at the product’s intended point of sale — in midwest and East Coast states where recreational marijuana is still not legal — the seized marijuana plants and dried product could be valued at three to five times that amount, according to JNET.
“Illegal marijuana grow operations are a threat to the health and safety of our community,” the JNET press release reads. Almost every property searched was found to have black mold in the houses, detached garages and shops. Hazardous materials were also located at nearly all the illegal marijuana grows identified in these cases. The future residents, neighbors and current occupants could be adversely affected if these types of operations are not identified and acted upon.”
According to JNET, the investigation began in 2019 with reports of subjects dumping “large amounts” of marijuana waste material such as leaves, stamps, empty fertilizer containers and growing blocks at the transfer station.
Those initial tips spurred an investigation involving search warrants executed at properties in Onalaska, Winlock, Adna, rural Chehalis, Centralia, Auburn, Tacoma, Seattle and Sacramento, California.
In all, authorities seized 11,000 growing marijuana plants and more than 500 pounds of marketable product.
A total of 23 suspects were identified.
“The majority of the suspects were from California, New York and China,” according to JNET.
Most or all of the product grown and processed locally was shipped outside Washington to the Midwest and East Coast where recreational marijuana is not legal and the black market prices is $3,000 to $5,000 per pound, according to JNET.
“These investigations also revealed a large and sophisticated Money Laundering scheme that stretches from Washington to California, New York, The Republic of China and Mexico,” according to the JNET news release.